SpaceX to Sue Over EELV Sole-Sourced Contract

©NBC News

Elon Musk of SpaceX at the National Press Club.

In a news conference held at the National Press Club in Washington SpaceX CEO Elon Musk started off by outlining the recent success of the soft landing of the Falcon 9 first stage off the coast of Florida. He then dropped a bombshell aimed straight at the heart of Washington with news that he was going to protest and sue over the recent sole sourced Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract won by United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Calling the contract unfair and puzzled by it not being competed, Musk felt SpaceX's only recourse was to protest the contract in this way. The legal fight will be pursued in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

In statement released after the press conference Musk said; "this exclusive deal unnecessarily costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars and defers meaningful free competition for years to come. We are simply asking that SpaceX and any other qualified domestic launch providers be allowed to compete in the EELV program for any and all missions that they could launch."

This appears to be the next battle in the ongoing war for future EELV launches which has $72 billion in contracts at stake. Today's press conference follows on the heels of raucous testimony by Musk and Michael Gass of ULA at the Senate Defense Subcommittee Hearing last month.

Musk stated during the press conference that he believed the procurement process was unfair and that certain individuals within the Air Force procurement chain were a problem but that they were on "very good terms with the vast majority of the Air Force."

He also stated SpaceX would be happy to compete for the contracts even if it lost. SpaceX just wants the option to compete for the contract.

Musk also believes there may have been violations of current sanctions against Russia with respect to Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, who Musk said appears to be benefiting personally from the money being sent to Russia.

He also referred to the EELV certification as "a paperwork exercise" and that throughout the process SpaceX has not had to make any changes to their rocket as a result of certification.

Musk stated that SpaceX had informed the Air Force ahead of time of the coming legal action.

Related:

- SpaceX press release: SpaceX Announces Court Action to Open Air Force Space Launch Missions to Competition

- Senator McCain Seeks Information on Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Program

Complete Audio of the News Conference

Updated: 1:30 pm EDT, April 26, 2014.

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